Monday, 28 February 2011


Well the nasty weather forecast turned out to be right. Yesterday evening the wind got up and it blew until the early hours, then it rained, after which it snowed!

We woke up to a snowy truck

and snowy mesquite

Luckily by the time we’d had breakfast the sun had come out and the snow was fast disappearing, although it has been very cold today with the temperature only getting into the mid 40’s.

Tonight is going be very cold about 26 and then tomorrow it will be back into the mid 60’s and mid 70’s by Tuesday, hurray!

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Whitewater Draw

This morning was unusual, it was overcast and cloudy, no sunshine. It was the advance front of a huge winter storm heading our way from California and threatening some nasty weather for Saturday night/Sunday morning. We’ll hunker down and see what happens.

Despite the mostly cloudy forecast, there was no wind and it was warm so we headed off to Whitewater Draw as a couple we’d met along the trail yesterday had told us that the Sandhill Cranes were still there and that we should be able to see them mid-morning.

Our route took us through Tombstone and Bisbee, before we turned onto the dirt road that took us to the entrance.

The area is managed by Arizona Game and Fish, camping is allowed for a maximum of 3 days, it’s a lovely spot with wide open views across the Sulphur Springs Valley.

Our first stop was the barn where high in the rafters a Great Horned Owl sleepily watches the tourists who wander along to peer at him through binoculars and take photographs.

There are several different ponds attracting an enormous amount of wildlife.

Around lunchtime we heard a croaking noise and saw swarms of cranes circling around in the sky

before coming into land. During the winter there can be over 30,000 cranes in the Sulphur Springs Valley migrating from as far away as Siberia, they are usually in the area until the beginning of March.

In their summer breeding grounds they eat small animals, tubers and seeds, but during the winter corn and other grains left after the harvest make up their diet.

The birds are about 4ft tall, they could almost look me in the eye!

Have fun, we are!


We have just noticed we have some new followers, welcome John & Ellen, we hope you enjoy following us on our travels.

San Pedro House

San Pedro House is open daily and is the headquarters for the Friends of the San Pedro River They have an extensive collection of books on the local area especially bird books as the area is renowned for birding.

It was mid-morning when we arrived and as we got out of the truck wearing shorts and t-shirts, the volunteers, who all wore long pants and sweatshirts and had the stove burning merrily away, tried to guess whether we were Canadian or from one of the northern States. Obviously they were wrong, but we definitely wouldn’t be wearing shorts and t-shirts at home right now!

We followed the trail across the sacaton grassland to the river. Although you can’t see it from the photograph below, they have a huge problem with invasive tumbleweed.

We turned right, and followed the trail along the river it’s very pretty.

There is still water flowing through the San Pedro at this time of the year.

Lots of wildlife javelinas, deer, coyotes and more live in the riparian area. The javelina wallow in damp spots near the river, although we didn't see any we could see their tracks.

Cottonwoods line the banks and the trees are beautiful against the deep blue sky.

Green Kingfisher pond has an abundance of bird life, we saw a vermilion fly catcher unfortunately it was too far away to photograph. There is also an abandoned beaver dam in the pond.

There is evidence of the beavers all around the pond.

Volunteers have planted young trees around the pond and in an effort to stop the beavers some have wire fences around the bottom.

It was a great day out and the weather was gorgeous!

Have fun, we are!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Ghost town & Petroglyphs

Tuesday was the day we decided we’d finally get around to hiking along the San Pedro to the remains of Charleston. Charleston was once a prosperous town and home to most of the workers who daily crossed the river to work in the mills in Millville.

We took the Sierra Vista road out of Tombstone, our original intention was to park by the river, but we found a parking lot complete with trail signs and information boards.

One of the things one information board told us was that the only remnants of Charleston are a few adobe walls mostly hidden under mesquite and that the army used it as a bombing range in the 1940’s. The same board also advised that the BLM actively discourage people from trying to find Charleston but it doesn’t say why. It was a lovely sunny day and we didn't want to battle through mesquite, so we opted to visit Millville and petroglyphs instead.

It’s hard to imagine but this ruin

Was once a magnificent house, full of the latest furnishings, where people gathered to enjoy magnificent parties and dinners, the picture is from the information board.

This is all that remains of one of the mills in Millville.

Working in the mills was a dangerous business, especially for those who worked in one of the best paying jobs with mercury. During the processing they breathed in vaporised mercury which caused among other things, loss of control, uncontrollable shaking, bone loss, fits of rage and death. There is still no cure for mercury poisoning.

One of the reasons there are so few remains in most ghost towns is the simple fact that the lumber and nails used to build the miners simple homes was expensive, so when the mines died, people dismantled their homes, carted them away and rebuilt them in the next boom town.

After looking around the remains we followed the trail down to the petroglyphs. Archaeologists spend time studying rock art but no-one is exactly sure of their meaning.

As we retraced our steps across the wash we noticed something further down,

it turned out to be the remains of a car that had been washed away, moral of that story is don’t ever try to drive through a wash if it has running water in it.

Have fun, we are!

A Different View of Fairbank

Monday was a fairly busy day here at TTRV, there was a Border Patrol presentation followed by a Q & A session in the clubhouse. The presentation finished around noon, so after some lunch we headed down to Fairbank for an afternoon stroll.

Surprisingly the parking lot was pretty full sometimes when we’ve visited we’ve been the only ones there.

We followed the horse trail before hitting the main trail it took us through mesquite and past an area of sacaton grass

to Willow Wash where we took a left and headed down to the San Pedro river.

A cairn directly across the wash might mark the trail to Contention City. Yes, there really was a place called Contention City and yes it really was the place where convicts were put on the train to go to the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison, although whether or not there actually was a ‘3.10 to Yuma’ I really don’t know. We’ve never tried to find the trail, because we’re usually in shorts and if it is the trail it looks as though it leads through dense, sharp, mesquite.

It’s very pretty down by the river and there is usually some water flowing.

After mooching around for a while we made our way back up Willow Wash and followed the same trail back. On our return journey we stopped to investigate some ruins just off the trail. We’re not sure exactly what they were maybe something to do with transporting the ore to or from the railroad?

Historical artefacts litter the area.

Our next stop was a daylight trip to the cemetery, the last time we were at the cemetery, was on a Halloween ghost walk on the night of a full moon.

It’s a peaceful place, with amazing views, although I don’t suppose the residents care about the views one way or another.

From there we made our way back to Fairbank where restoration work on some of the few remaining buildings is still underway.

Have fun, we are!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Parker Canyon Lake

Parker Canyon Lake lies at an elevation of 5,375 ft in the Canelo Hills, part of the Coronado National Forest at the end of highway 83, a mere stones throw from the Mexican border.

It is a 30 mile drive from Sonoita through rolling grasslands before climbing high into the mountains. There are some beautiful homes overlooking the lake.

The signs not only warn you that you are in bear country, great we left the pepper spray in the Cougar, but also that you might encounter smugglers and illegals. Did we really want to do this?

Taking the advice of the guy in the bait shop we took the lake shore hike in the anti-clockwise direction so that the strong wind was on our backs for most of the way. Do not be fooled by the name, although this is not a difficult hike, it is not flat!

The start of the hike follows the trail along the shoreline with gentle ups and downs

Meandering in and out of the many inlets on the lake

Even though it was a warm sunny morning because of the strong chilly breeze one minute you were in a sheltered spot enjoying the sunshine the next you rounded a corner and were back in the wind, so the sweatshirts stayed on.

In several locations along the early part of the trail there were seats overlooking either the lake or an inlet, but it was so windy we didn’t bother to stop. There were more inlets than we realised, some were fairly short but the one below was so long it took ages to walk round before crossing where the stream leading into it dried up from this point you couldn’t actually see the open lake.

The further round we got the more wooded it became and the higher the trail was above the lake. We’d decided that we’d walk about ¾ of the way round before having lunch. What we didn’t realise was that by then we’d be on the narrowest, rockiest part of the trail where there were no benches, oops!

On our way round this side of the lake we met several fisherman, none of whom were having any luck, although they all said they were having a great day, I guess it was a ‘you should’ve seen the one that got away’ sort of day.

The only bench we eventually found on this side of the trail was almost back at the marina, so that is where we had lunch.

By this time the forecast clouds had rolled in, so headed home.

We walked just under 5 miles and had a great day.

Have fun, we are!

Desert Evenings

A couple of days ago there was a gorgeous sunset over the Huachuca Mountains

followed by a spectacular almost full moon rising over the Dragoon Mountains

After that we were serenaded by the coyotes, so ended another lovely day in the desert.

Have fun, we are!

Patagonia Lake State Park

Earlier this week we took highway 82 to Patagonia Lake State Park, it’s maybe an hour from where we are.

The drive takes you through rolling grasslands into Santa Cruz County, Patagonia Lake State Park is one of the few State parks that Arizona hasn’t closed in an attempt to balance its budget.

Patagonia Lake State Park is 4 miles from the main highway and was established in 1975, it has a campground, boat rentals, a marina and store, fishing, a beach with swimming area, no I didn’t swim I like my pools a lot warmer than the lake! The visitor centre is only open at the weekends, cutbacks I guess, and there is a trail that winds along Sonoita Creek we saw plenty of birders along the trail.

We parked in the day use picnic area and ate lunch by the lake while watching the antics of a large blue heron on an island across the way.

Afterwards we took a stroll along Sonoita creek, the start of the trail is close to the water and reeds.

A northern shoveler, we think!

The trail meanders along following the creek through the trees we gave a very wide birth to a huge bull with equally huge horns dozing in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually we retraced our steps before taking advantage of a conveniently placed bench bear the trailhead that overlooked the lake.

It was a great day.

Have fun, we are!

Return to the Godawful (Guindani) Trail

After much persuasion and giving notice that at the first sign of the trail becoming overgrown we were heading back, I agreed to try the other half of the ‘Godawful’ Guindani trail.

As we entered Kartchner Caverns State Park, the ranger on duty confirmed that the wash was still as overgrown as it had been in October. This did not sound promising!

We followed the trail, but this time instead of following the sign sending us to the deep overgrown wash of the Guindani trail and Guindani Bike Loop (only mountain bikers with a death wish would try this!) trail we took the left hand option. Hurray! This was an easy walking well marked uphill trail that followed what appeared to be an old mine road with great views across the San Pedro Valley.

The trail was fairly steep as it climbed up and then wound its way along a rocky but easy to follow single trail higher into the Whetstone mountains. No trying to find cairns in an overgrown wash with sharp mesquite, yucca and goodness knows what else crowding you on all sides. Can you tell I really hated that trail in the wash?

Warning signs told of the dangers of entering old mine and shafts

that were on either side of the lower half of the trail

Not a chance far too scary to be heading into somewhere like that!

As we followed the trail round the side of the mountain the remains of an old mine, complete with a fenced area surrounding an old mine shaft were visible in the valley below.

There were the remains of wooden posts climbing up the side of the mountain which we assumed might be part of the pulley system for bringing ore down.

We took a water break under the shade of an old oak tree before continuing our climb up the mountain.

The trail reached its highest point of 5,600ft at a saddle with views deeper into the mountains before it wound its way down through dense vegetation into a canyon. We followed the trail down a few yards to a fence and gate which we used as a very convenient leaning post to have lunch. From where we leaned against the fence there was no sign of the bottom of the canyon.

Looking down we decided we were probably looking at the end of the horrible wash we’d walked up last October. Back then it was getting late in the afternoon and not knowing how much further we had to push through the overgrown wash we’d decided to turn back as deep overgrown washes are no place to be when the sun’s going down.

This time though we had no such problems, the trail was easy to follow if a little rocky and the views were fabulous, this side of the Guindani trail was very enjoyable.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Thankfully the cold front has disappeared and we’re back to cool nights and warm, sunny days.

Earlier this week we took a trip out to the wildlife viewing area on Willcox Playa. Willcox Playa is a huge expanse in Sulphur Springs Valley, aeons ago it was once a huge lake, Cochise Lake, and indigenous peoples lived on its shores.

Today Sandhill Cranes winter here and ‘Wings over Willcox’ is a famous festival held each January to celebrate these huge graceful birds.

We took 186 South out of Willcox and then turned right onto the Kansas Settlement Road and after about 3 miles we came to the parking area for the wildlife viewing area on the right.

It’s a non motorised area, so we walked the 2.4 mile round trip trail to the lake. The sign said that they couldn’t guarantee that we would see cranes and quite honestly as it was the middle of the day we hoped rather than expected that we might see a couple.

The trail led through some trees and then out onto the vast area of open playa.

Parts of the playa were at one time used as a bombing range and there is unexploded ordinance in places, so it’s not somewhere to venture off track. We followed the blue signs and eventually arrived at the viewing area.

If you look very carefully you can just about see a thin blue line this is the closest you can get to the lake, no wonder they recommend bringing binoculars!

This was our best view of the lake.

Needless to say we couldn’t see any sign of the sandhill cranes, hardly surprising as probably the best time to see them is dusk or dawn. I suppose we could get up extra early and drive the 60 odd miles to the playa to see them, but…………………….

We stayed for a while then followed the trail back to the truck.

Have fun, we are!

Meet The Author

A notice in the TTRV clubhouse caught our attention ‘Meet the Author’ J A Jance will be at Atalantas Bookstore in Bisbee on 6 February. J A Jance is one of our favourite authors how neat was that!

On one of our many trips to Arizona, we discovered her Joanna Brady books. The series follows the trials and tribulations of Joanna as she becomes Sheriff of Cochise County. As the books cover areas we’ve visited we really enjoy them.

The meet the author book tour was to publicise her latest book ‘Fatal Error’ which is number 6 in the Ali Reynolds series; this series is set in and around Sedona, another area we are coming to know well.

It was a little on the chilly side when we arrived in Bisbee so our first stop was the Bisbee Coffee Company for a cappuccino and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate came with whipped cream, delicious but not good for the diet! But then again neither was the chocolate cake that seemed to magically appear with the cappuccino!

Suitably fortified we headed off to the bookstore, it was very interesting to meet one of our favourite authors and we now have several autographed books to enjoy.

Have fun, we are!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Life in the freezer!

Yep, currently it’s like we’re living in a freezer. For the past few days Southern Arizona has been on the edge of a winter storm 2,000 miles long. That’s the size of the nasty storm that’s swept across the US this week covering areas with blizzards, dumping feet of snow, bringing ice storms, power outages, blocking interstates leaving motorists stranded for hours in snowdrifts, causing roofs to collapse and leading to thousands of flights being cancelled. Down on the south eastern edge of the storm there were even severe thunderstorms and tornadoes reported where the frigid cold air from Canada met the warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. It was a real nasty mess.

Here in Southern Arizona, we’ve missed the worst of it, but there have been record cold temperatures and I mean cold! This morning it was 8F with the added wind chill factor it was about -6F that’s cold, very cold! The local news was full of school closures, broken water pipes, power outages and diesel in school buses turning to slush, oh joy! Needless to say instead of sunbathing and swimming today, we topped of one of our propane tanks as right now it’s our furnace that’s getting a real good workout not the aircon!

Much to my Mum’s amusement it is currently much colder here than it is at home, but although tonight is forecast to be equally as cold, tomorrow it will start warming up again and we should be back in shorts and tshirts by the end of the weekend. Hurray!

This morning we listened to a very interesting talk on the ancient peoples of the area by Dr Eric Kaldahl the Curator of the Amerind Foundation, we’ve now added a visit to Mammoth Springs historical site to our list of places to visit while we’re here. The Amerind Foundation is a fascinating place which we’ve visited a couple of times.

Right now, we’re watching the sun go down over the Dragoon mountains and although it hasn’t got above 28F today, you can feel the temperature dropping like a stone as the sun disappears below the horizon.

No photographs today as it was too cold for my little fingers to hold the camera!

Have fun, we are!